Sunday, January 31, 2010

Doughy Lumps, Stomach Pumps, Enemas, Too…

Or, Brian Wilson: Friend of Vegetables (and Goats)

Today’s post was inspired by two things—Mr. Pleasant’s Top 100 7-inch Singles (major Beach Boys representation here!) and the inadvertent inclusion of the Pet Sounds mailing list on a recommended list of Internet resources for animal welfare professionals (don’t ask!). Oh, well, three things—all those long-suffering folks who actually know the next line in the song referenced above…

Here goes...

If life were a big county fair and we were all various kinds of produce, this man, or at least the creative side of his brain, would be one of those beautiful gargantuan mutant tomatoes that wins the blue ribbon, but is just so big and juicy that even the farmer doesn’t know what to do with it. Was it something in the water? Or just a highly developed root system?

Eventually the tomato rolls off the vegetable cart, and it’s not uncommon to find it introducing the onion to the peach, or the beet to the watermelon, just to see what sweetness might result. And did I mention this tomato can sing?

No matter what your favorite veg-e-table, everyone can benefit from a little extra Brian Wilson in his or her life. It just so happens that throughout his career with the Beach Boys, he never forgot to tip his hat to his favorite flora and fauna:

* “Vegetables,” written by BW and Van Dyke Parks and first found commercially on the Beach Boys’ 1967 Smiley Smile LP. This song romp-chomps along, ending with a plea for the pea: “I know that you’ll feel better when you send us in your letter and tell us the name of your favorite vegetable.”

* “H.E.L.P. is on the Way,” from disc 3 of Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys. If you’re a vegetarian/vegan who has never guffawed with delight, you will now. Written as a kind of promo for a health food restaurant, the song features Brian cautioning listeners about the pitfalls of being a meat eater: “Doughy lumps, stomach pumps, enemas, too/That’s what you’ll get when you eat that way!” In a moment of cruciferous triumph, he glows, “Hamburgers and hotdogs, throw ‘em all out!/You’ll feel so good you’ll stand up and shout!”

* On the Beach Boys’ Surf’s Up album is a wacky song written by BW & Jack Reilly called “A Day in the Life of a Tree.” If you listen to it enough, it just might grow on you (haw haw!). It’s about air pollution and is really, really sad: “But now my branches suffer/And my leaves don’t offer/Poetry to men of song/Trees like me weren’t meant to live/if all this world can give is pollution and slow death.

P.S. Don’t wanna end on such sad note, but…let me share my favorite BW-ism. When asked to describe himself by a reporter, Brian said he was…PSYCHEDELICATE.

P.S.S. Crap, I have to make an animal-music connection by the end of this post...Those are Brian's dogs, Banana and Louie, who you hear barking at the end of “Caroline, No" from the Pet Sounds album, and a Sparklett’s water jug you hear at the beginning of the song. If that ever comes up in a trivia contest, you have to split your winnings with me.


  1. Your blog just keeps gettin' better and better. The two grafs after "here goes"! Such amazing imagery--adore, adore, adore.

    I'm glad we can laugh about that mailing list debacle now! Though I'm still red as a singin' tomato!

  2. I think "A Day in the Life of a Tree" was also meant to be a metaphor for Wilson's life.
    Put it together with Till I Die, and it's like a last call for help. Incredibly sad & beautiful.
    Amazing that he came back and finished SMiLE a few years ago.


  3. Hi Mark. Wow, you're so right about Tree/Till I Die. And I think "I Went to Sleep" has a bit of that sadness/slipping away, too. Do u have a blog? Please share if so.